PLAYED BEST POLO WITH IGLEHART
The chief reason Smith is still such a fine player at 51 and such a dangerous, hard rider is that he is on a horse for four hours or more almost every day, which of course is what the Moguls were, too. If he is not actually playing polo, he will ride up and down a field alone with a mallet and "stick a few balls,"—smack a ball back and forth to practice his strokes. As a means of keeping both eye and muscle tuned, for horse as well as man, polo players think this seemingly idle activity is as important as baseball players regard batting and fielding practice.
There is a lot in polo, as in most other sports, to playing regularly with men who know each other's styles and special abilities. Low-goal players normally are confined to their clubs, scattered all over the country, and high-goal players nowadays no longer have the incentive of frequent international matches to make them play together as often as they did before the war.
Smith figures he has played his finest polo through the years with Stewart Iglehart, who, at 45, is one of the other two 10-goal players in the United States ( Bob Skene of California is the third); but Iglehart does not play as much as he used to, and he and Smith now join up rarely. Along with Iglehart, Smith has most enjoyed playing with Mike Phipps, an eight-goal man. With Winston Guest (whose last rating was nine in 1947) at back, this quartet compares with the alltime best. The fact that there are few groups on the horizon to match it is due, Smith feels, to the dearth of good young players who are able to play polo regularly.
Going after his fifth national open team crown in the next fortnight at Oak Brook, Smith will be playing with his Hinsdale sponsor, Paul Butler, a wealthy airplane dealer and paper manufacturer, whose sponsorship of the sport, including financing trips for players and maintaining a large stable, outstrips his own ability as a three-goal player. The other two players on the quartet are Gus White Jr., a fellow Texan with a fine seven-goal rating, and Bill Skidmore, rated at five goals.
Smith expects Oak Brook to do better than it did last year, when it was whipped in the semifinals, but because polo remains a highly individual game, it's doubtful he'll lose his 10-goal handicap no matter what happens in the matches. The polo association's handicap committee know that Smith plays more constantly than anyone else and that, in spite of his advancing years, he still plays like a galloping Texas ranger pursuing his old hard-riding maxim as if he were chasing an outlaw—"take your man out and also hit the ball, and if you can't hit the ball at least take your man." That's how he began playing polo and that's how he will play until he racks up his mallets. There's no prospect of that as far as Smith is concerned. In more ways than one, it's as he says, "Polo is what keeps me going."